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In another passage (p. 400) Macaulay says:
'Johnson was no master of the great science of human nature. He had studied, not the genus man, but the species Londoner. Nobody was ever so thoroughly conversant with all the forms of life and all the shades of moral and intellectual character which were to be seen from Islington to the Thames, and from Hyde-Park corner to Mile-end green. But his philosophy stopped at the first turnpike-gate. Of the rural life of England he knew nothing, and he took it for granted that everybody who lived in the country was either stupid or miserable.'
Of the two assertions that Macaulay makes in these two passages, while one is for the most part true, the other is utterly and grossly false. Johnson had no contempt for foreign travel. That curiosity which animated his eager mind in so many parts of learning did not fail him, when his thoughts turned to the great world outside our narrow seas. It was his poverty that confined him so long to the neighbourhood of Temple Bar. He must in these early days have sometimes felt with Arviragus when he says:—
'What should we speak of
With his pension his wanderings at once began. His friendship with the Thrales gave them a still wider range. His curiosity, which in itself was always eager, was checked in his more prosperous circumstances by his years, his natural unwillingness at any one moment to make an effort, and by the want of travelling companions who were animated by a spirit of inquiry and of enterprise equal to his own. He did indeed travel much more than is commonly thought, and was far less frequently to be seen rolling along Fleet-street or stemming the full tide of human existence at Charing Cross than his biographers would have us believe.
The following table, imperfect though it must necessarily be, shows how large a part of his life he passed outside 'the first turnpike-gate,' and beyond the smoke of London:
1709-1736. The first twenty-seven years of his life he spent in small country towns or villages-Lichfield, Stourbridge, Oxford, Market-Bosworth, Birmingham. So late as 1781 Lichfield did not contain 4,000 inhabitants (Harwood's History of Lichfield, p. 380); eight years later it was reckoned that a little over 8,000 people dwelt in Oxford (Parker's Early History of Oxford, ed. 1885, p. 229). In 1732 or 1733 Birmingham, when Johnson first went to live there, had not, I suppose, a population of 10,000. Its growth was wonderfully rapid. Between 1770 and 1797 its inhabitants increased from 30,000 to nearly
80,000 (Birmingham Directory for 1780, p. xx, and A Brief History of Birmingham, p. 8).
1736-7. The first eighteen months of his married life he lived quite in the country at Edial, two miles from Lichfield. Ante, i. 97. 1737. He was twenty-eight years old when he removed to London.
Ante, i. 110.
1739. He paid a visit to Appleby in Leicestershire and to Ashbourn. Ante, i. 82, 133 note 1.
1754. Oxford. July and August, about five weeks. Ante, i. 270, note 5.
Ante, i. 370.
1759. Oxford. July, length of visit not mentioned. Ante, i. 347. 1761-2. Lichfield. Winter, a visit of five days. 1762. In the summer of this year his pension henceforth had the means of travelling. A trip to Devonshire, from Aug. 16 to Sept. 26; six weeks. Ante, i. 377.
was granted, and he Ante, i. 372.
Oxford. December. 'I am going for a few days or weeks to Oxford.' Letter of Dec. 21, 1762. Croker's Boswell, p. 129.
Ante, i. 464.
1763. Harwich. August, a few days. Oxford. October, length of visit not mentioned. A letter dated Oxford, Oct. 27 . Croker's Boswell, p. 161. 1764. Langton in Lincolnshire, part of January and February. Ante,
Easton Maudit in Northamptonshire, part of June, July, and August. Croker's Boswell, p. 166, note, and ante, i. 486.
Oxford, October. Letter to Mr. Strahan dated Oxford, Oct. 24, 1764. Post, Addenda to vol. v.
Either this year or the next Johnson made the acquaintance of the Thrales. For the next seventeen years he had 'an apartment appropriated to him in the Thrales' villa at Streatham' (ante, i. 493), a handsome house that stood in a small park. Streatham was a quiet country-village, separated by wide commons from London, on one of which a highwayman had been hanged who had there robbed Mr. Thrale (ante, iii. 239, note 2). According to Mrs. Piozzi Johnson commonly spent the middle of the week at their house, coming on the Monday night and returning to his own home on the Saturday (post, iv. 169, note 3). Miss Burney, in 1778, describes him 'as living almost wholly at Streatham' (ante, i. 493, note 3). No doubt she was speaking chiefly of the summer half of the year, for in the winter time the Thrales would be often in their town house, where he also had his apartment. Mr. Strahan complained
complained of his being at Streatham 'in a great measure absorbed from the society of his old friends' (ante, iii. 225). He used to call it 'my home' (ante, i. 493, note 3).
1765. Cambridge, early in the year; a short visit. Ante, i. 487. Brighton, autumn; a short visit. Piozzi's Anec. p. 126, and Piozzi Letters, i. 1.
1766. Streatham, summer and autumn; more than three months. Ante, ii. 25, and Pr. and Med. p. 71. Oxford, autumn; a month. 1767. Lichfield, summer and autumn; and Piozzi Letters, i. 4, 5.
1768. Oxford, spring; several weeks.
Ante, ii. 25.
'near six months.' Ante, ii. 30,
Piozzi Letters, i. 6-15.
Townmalling in Kent, September; apparently a short visit. Pr. and Med. p. 81.
1769. Oxford, from at least May 18 to July 7. Piozzi Letters, i. 19-23,
and ante, ii. 67.
Lichfield and Ashbourn, August; a short visit. Piozzi Letters, i. 24, and ante, ii. 67.
Brighton, part of August and September; some weeks. Ante, ii. 68, 70, and Croker's Boswell, p. 198, letter dated 'Brighthelmstone. August 26, 1769.'
1770. Lichfield and Ashbourn, apparently whole of July. Piozzi
Letters, i. 26-32.
1771. Lichfield and Ashbourn, from June 20 to after Aug. 5. Ante, ii. 141, 142, and Piozzi Letters, i. 36-54.
1772. Lichfield and Ashbourn, from about Oct. 15 to early in December. Piozzi Letters, i. 55-69.
1773. ? Oxford, April; a hurried visit. Ante, ii. 235, note 2.
Tour to Scotland from Aug. 6 to Nov. 26. Ante, ii. 265, 268.
Oxford, part of November and December. Ante, ii. 268. 1774. Tour to North Wales (Derbyshire, Chester, Conway, Anglesey, Snowdon, Shrewsbury, Worcester, Birmingham, Oxford, Beaconsfield) from July 5 to Sept. 30. Ante, ii. 285, and post, v. 427.
1775. Oxford, March; a short visit. Piozzi Letters, i. 212.
Oxford, Lichfield, Ashbourn, from end of May till some time in August. Ante, ii. 381, and Piozzi Letters, i. 223-301.
? Brighton; apparently a brief visit in September. Croker's Boswell, p. 459.
A tour to Paris (going by Calais and Rouen and returning by Compiegne, St. Quintin, and Calais), from Sept. 15 to Nov. Ante, ii. 384, 401.
1776. Oxford, Lichfield, Ashbourn, March 19-29. (The trip was cut short by young Thrale's death.) Ante, ii. 438, and iii. 4.
Bath, from the middle of April to the beginning of May, Ante, iii. 44, 51.
Brighton, part of September and October; full seven weeks. Ante, iii. 92.
1777. Oxford, Lichfield, and Ashbourn, from about July 28 to about Nov. 6. Ante, iii. 129, 210, and Piozzi Letters, i. 348–396 and ii. 1-16 (the letter of Oct. 3, i. 396, is wrongly dated, as is shown by the mention of Foote's death).
Brighton, November; a visit of three days. Ante, iii. 210. 1778. Warley Camp, in Essex, September; about a week. Ante, iii.
1779. Lichfield, Ashbourn, from May 20 to end of June. Ante, iii. 395, and Piozzi Letters, ii. 44-55.
Epsom, September; a few days. Pr. and Med. pp. 181, 225. 1780. Brighton. October. MS. letter dated Oct. 26, 1780 to Mr. Nichols in the British Museum.
1781. Oxford, Birmingham, Lichfield, Ashbourn, from Oct. 15 to Dec; 11. Post, iv. 135, and Croker's Boswell, p. 699, note 5. 1782. Oxford, June; about ten days. Post, iv. 151, and Piozzi Letters,
Brighton, part of October and November. Post, iv. 159. 1783. Rochester, July; about a fortnight. Post, iv. 233.
Heale near Salisbury, part of August and September; three weeks. Post, iv. 233, 239.
1784. Oxford, June; a fortnight. Post, iv. 283, 311.
Lichfield, Ashbourn, Oxford, from July 13 to Nov. 16. Post, iv. 353, 377..
That he was always eager to see the world is shown by many a passage in his writings and by the testimony of his biographers. How Macaulay, who knew his Boswell so well, could have accused him of 'speaking of foreign travel with the fierce and boisterous contempt of ignorance' would be a puzzle indeed, did we not know how often this great rhetorician was by the stream of his own mighty rhetoric swept far away from the unadorned strand of naked truth. To his unjust and insulting attack I shall content myself with opposing the following extracts which with some trouble I have collected :
1728 or 1729. Johnson in his undergraduate days was one day overheard saying:
'I have a mind to see what is done in other places of learning. and visit the Universities abroad. I'll go to France and Italy. I'll go to Padua.' Ante, i. 73.
1734. A generous and elevated mind is distinguished by nothing more certainly than an eminent degree of curiosity, nor is that curiosity ever more agreeably or usefully employed than in examining the laws and customs of foreign nations.' Ante, i. 89.
1751. Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristicks of a vigorous intellect.' Rambler, No. 103. Curiosity is in great and generous minds the first passion and the last; and perhaps always predominates in proportion to the strength of the contemplative faculties.' Ib. No. 150.
1752. Francis Barber, describing Johnson's friends in 1752, says:
" There was a talk of his going to Iceland with Mr. Diamond, which would probably have happened had he lived.' Ante, i. 242. Johnson, in a letter to the wife of the poet Smart, says, 'we have often talked of a voyage to Iceland.' Post, iv. 359 note. Mrs. Thrale wrote to him when he was in the Hebrides in 1773 :-Well! 'tis better talk of Iceland. Gregory challenges you for an Iceland expedition; but I trust there is no need; I suppose good eyes might ach it from some of the places you have been
Piozzi Letters, i. 188.
1761. Johnson wrote to Baretti :
'I wish you had staid longer in Spain, for no country is less known to the rest of Europe.' Ante, i. 365. He twice recommended Boswell to perambulate Spain. Ante, i. 410, 455.
1763. 'Dr. Johnson flattered me (Boswell) with some hopes that he would, in the course of the following summer, come over to Holland, and accompany me in a tour through the Netherlands.' Ante, i. 470.
1772. He said that he had had some desire, though he soon laid it aside, to go on an expedition round the world with Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander. Ante, ii. 147.
1773. 'Dr. Johnson and I talked of going to Sweden. Boswell's Hebrides, post, v. 215.
On Sept. 9, 1777, Boswell wrote to Johnson :
'I shrink a little from our scheme of going up the Baltick: I am sorry you have already been in Wales; for I wish to see it.' Ante, iii. 134. Four days later Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale:-'Boswell shrinks from the Baltick expedition, which, I think, is the best scheme in our power: what we shall substitute I know not. He wants to see Wales; but except the woods of Bachycraigh (post, v. 436), what is there in Wales, that can fill the hunger of ignorance, or quench the thirst of curiosity? We may, perhaps, form some scheme or other; but in the phrase of Hockley in the Hole, it is a pity he has not a better bottom? Ib. note 1.
Boswell writes :
'Martin's account of the Hebrides had impressed us with a notion that we might there contemplate a system of life almost totally different from what we had been accustomed to see.... Dr. Johnson told me that his father put Martin's account into his hands when he was very young, and that he was much pleased with it.' Post, v. 13.